Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Promise Land 50k Race Report

Third race in the LUS is the Promise Land 50k, my favorite of all the races.  Emily and I arrived at 5pm at the start/finish which is located at the Promise Land youth camp, only a few miles south from where Terrapin Mt 50k took place, and setup our tent.  Everything was going well until we realized the power inverter I bought was not powerful enough to inflate our Aero bed, doh!!  Good thing there was plenty of grass on the ground to provide somewhat of a soft surface for us to lie down on.  We both ended up sleeping well, so we lucked out with the Aero mishap.

We awoke at 4:30 to Dr. Horton's siren letting all the campers know that it was getting close to game time.  I grabbed a quick bite to eat and started to get my gear out.  Weather was supposed to be in the high 60's with a 10% chance of rain, curse you weather man/woman for being absolutely dead wrong.  More on that later on.

The race started right on que at 5:30 as 372 runners began the race which has become a spring time right of passage on the East Coast.  Dr. Horton also informed us at the pre race briefing that this was the largest ultra held in Virginia.  The race begins with a constant 1300' climb along a gravel road up to AS 1 Overstreet Falls.  I have been really training hard on improving my climbing by doing hill workouts twice a week and sometimes even incorporating hill repeats on a biweekly basis and my training is starting to pay off as I came into AS 1 in 0:42:56 which was 2:30 faster then last year.  Still not blazing speed, but a definite improvement.

I topped off my Nathan 1.5 liter hydration pack while Emily waited for me and we turned onto Glenwood Horse Trail and made the rest of the climb up Onion Mountain.  I was moving along a decent pace and was very happy to finally reach the to top of Onion Mountain and finally start running some down hill.  This part was nice soft grass fire road and it was very easy to go too fast early on during this tough thirty five mile race.  At the eight mile mark is where we began our second climb.  During this climb is where we came into AS 2, Reed Creek, after fueling up with bananas and water we proceeded to leave the AS and Glenwood Horse Trail to continue our trek up Apple Orchard Mountain (first of two climbs up Apple Orchard Mountain).
Glenwood Horse Trail
We made good time because we were running all the up hills except for steep parts and once we made it to the top my legs were starting to show some fatigue.  Emily and I came into AS 3 Sunset Fields in 3:02.
Emily coming out of Sunset Field AS (1st time) about to descend down the trail
We took a little bit more time at this AS, maybe 1:30ish, before we made our way down some sweet technical single track.  I love this section of the course!!  This section is so enjoyable to run because it's technical and downhill, but you have to cautious because there are many roots and rocks that could easily catch your foot and make for a nasty tumble.  Up to this point in the race the weather had been overcast, but the sun finally decided to come out, albeit briefly.  This section also has a few stream crossings and you have no choice but to get your feet wet.  I didn't run as quickly as I would have like to during this section and my split to Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS (first time) was 3:15 slower then 2011.

This is where the wheels came off.  I was really struggling during the section with my nutrition and hydration, so I decided to take a few extra S!Caps and drank a few GU electrolyte drinks.  Shortly after coming out of the aid station I had to take my only walking break of the race, I just needed some time to gain my composure and take in some extra calories.  I was sticking to my usual plan of taking 200 calories per hour and one S!Cap every forty five minutes.  After that low period I began to feel better and my pace started to pick back up.  We came into Colon Hollow AS slower then I anticipated, but we began to pick up the pace.

After leaving Colon Hollow AS the course turns back onto some grassy rolling fire road.  This section seemed to go on and on because I kept thinking that I would remember when were coming up on Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS.  During this time of the race the weather decided to make the race even more difficult for the runners still out on the course.  It began to lightly rain, then sky really opened up and started to dump some serious rain on us.  The temps started to drop and I was becoming increasingly colder with every passing minute, so I put my Moeben sleeves back on to help keep me warm.  As we came into the Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS, for the second time, it began to thunder and lighting.  We would see the lighting and hear the thunder no more then four to five seconds later.  Emily looked at me and asked "what should we do?" in which I quickly responded "run faster".

We filled up our hydration packs and left the AS, which had a tent that lots of runners were seeking shelter from the driving rain and to help warm themselves up a bit.  The climb up Apple Orchard Falls is where my race fell apart last year and I was committed to not letting that happen again.  A group of four to five people joined Emily and I as we climbed.  We ran everything that was runnable and passed everyone that was in our group at the beginning of the climb.  We reached the waterfall, which was beautiful, and then we started up the wooden steps and my legs felt dead!  At this point I really had to dig deep to keep pushing.  Last year I thought the wood steps were closer to the summit, but I was incorrect and the suffering continued until we finally reached the Sunset Fields AS (for the second time).

Emily and I briefly admired the view as we topped off our hydration packs and after passed another five to six people at the aid station trying to get warm.  I would show pictures of the waterfall but my iPhone case was wet and the pictures came out terribly.  I knew at this point in the race the course was basically downhill from Sunset Fields to the finish.  My legs didn't want to run so I let them cool down a bit after the huge climb and eventually I was able to shuffle.  We then got back onto Glenwood Horse Trail and headed down the switch backs towards the Overstreet Falls AS.  I told Emily before the race to make sure she topped off her hydration pack at Sunset Fields so that she would be able to save herself some time by skipping Overstreet Falls AS.

Emily and I hadn't planned on running the race together, but both were running the same pace and both felt like we were pushing ourselves.  As we ran through Overstreet AS without stopping Emily decided that she was going to push it to the finish and was able to open a thirty to forty second gap on me as we closed in on 1.5 miles to the finish.  We were both cruising along and probably passed six to seven runners along the way, while only being passed by one runner.  I saw the one mile to go spray painted on the group and I looked up and Emily had pulled a minute ahead of me, so I did what any husband would do... take off after her.  With a half mile to go my legs were begging me to stop but pride was telling me to go harder.  As we came into the Promise Land youth camp I closed the gap to twenty seconds, but inevitably I ran out of time and she beat me by seventeen seconds.  Dr.Horton then told everyone that a couple had just finished, followed by, she beat him which was then followed by a whisper "smart man".  Trust me that is not how I wanted that to work out.  My last two miles I ran 8:41 & 8:13!!!  I finished in 7:57:43 which was 5:45 improvement from last year.  I didn't need to peak for this race, but this is a good boost as I close in on Vermont 100 in July.  Congrats Emily and running a good race, I will get ya' next time.
I absolutely love the running community in Virginia!!!  The volunteers that braved the less than ideal conditions, I am in debt to you and hopefully I will be volunteering a race soon and will be able to give you the same smile and encouraging words that you gave me.  The real question is to Grindstone or not to Grindstone........

Pictures from the Race (didn't turn out very good because of the moisture on my iPhone case)

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack and Amphipod handheld 
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt with Moeben Sleeves 
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  

See ya on the trails,


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